August 18 – Watercolors and Writing Workshops at the Château de Verderonne

After our morning yoga, Elissa treated us to a watercolor class to teach us to paint the château, but the rain had other plans. So we worked on color blending in the blue salon, under the gaze of the plaster unicorn head mounted to the wall like a prize, until the sun peered out. We want to control the water-paint ratio! Not you, Nature!

We started indoors until the weather sorted itself out

Water, water everywhere: we started indoors until the weather sorted itself out

Christine has an impressive array of paints!

The color wheel: Christina has an impressive array of paints!

Mixing colors like pros

Color theory: mixing colors like pros

Before everyone settled in though, I had this moment with a butterfly who landed on the table to die, or rest in peace.

The butterfly between states

The butterfly between states

Luckily the rain stopped just in-time. The sky wasn’t perfectly clear, but the looming clouds cast a writerly mood over the grounds and our paintings– pensive, reflective, and changeable. Elissa showed us how to measure angles, notice parallel lines, approximate perspective, and patiently build the Château de Verderonne in paint upon our papers.

Elissa and Stephanie perfect their pieces on the grassy slope

Elissa and Stephanie perfect their pieces on the grassy slope

It's more fun to paint together

It’s more fun to paint together

Watercolorgroup2

The painters at work

The painters at work

Rita and Elissa's artist hand

Rita and Elissa’s artist hand

Maybe there's still a bit of rain to contend with

Maybe there’s still a bit of rain to contend with

Mr. Marie was pleased with our work– he seems to genuinely love how many writers and artists are inspire by his beautiful home. The Château de Verderonne has a long tradition of hosting artists dating back to the days of Marie Antoinette, and probably earlier too. Between the ancient theatre and the castle itself, there’s plenty of space for the magic of creation.

Mr. Marie with Nannie and her painting. I love his look of fatherly pride!

Mr. Marie with Nannie and her painting. I love his look of fatherly pride!

Between class and workshop, I took a stroll around the grounds and realized that sunny skies are lovely, but overcast and threatening to rain is where all the real drama is. When I found this tiny green spider on the white rose, I remembered the butterfly from earlier, and then this sonnet, “On Design” by Robert Frost:

A green spider on a rose against a stormy sky

A green spider on a rose against a stormy sky

“I found a dimpled spider, fat and white,

On a white heal-all, holding up a moth
Like a white piece of rigid satin cloth—
Assorted characters of death and blight
Mixed ready to begin the morning right,
Like the ingredients of a witches’ broth—
A snow-drop spider, a flower like a froth,
And dead wmgs carried like a paper kite.

What had that flower to do with being white,
The wayside blue and innocent heal-all?
What brought the kindred spider to that height,
Then steered the white moth thither in the night?
What but design of darkness to appall?–
If design govern in a thing so small.”

We had all been wondering since we got here, why are we all here? Why this specific group of people at this specific time and place? We wondered about fate, free-will, and chaos. If we were destined to meet, to collide with our stories and poems, to influence each other, to remember each other, or if it was all a happy accident. What design of writing to appease?–If design govern in a thing so sweet.

Red Heart

Red Heart

“Your thorns are the best part of you.” –Marianne Moore, “Roses Only”

"Your thorns are the best part of you." --Marianne Moore, "Roses Only"

“Your thorns are the best part of you.” –Marianne Moore, “Roses Only”

“You do not seem to realize that beauty is a liability rather than an asset…” -Marianne Moore, “Roses Only”

"You do not seem to realize that beauty is a liability rather than an asset..." -Marianne Moore, "Only Roses"

“You do not seem to realize that beauty is a liability rather than an asset…” -Marianne Moore, “Only Roses”

I watched the bees visiting the petunias

bee in flower bees in flower 2 bees in flower

My wander through the rest of the garden darkened as I neared the gate–

gardens3 flowers greenhouse2 gate gate2

The greenhouse beckoned with colored glass and ripe tomatoes

greenhouse tomato

Little did they know, fat and content upon the vine, what would become of them tomorrow…

Gina teaches me how to make her famous marinara

Gina teaches me how to make her famous marinara

The rain had made good on its threat, but no walk is complete without snuggling a baby chick at the chicken coop

chickencoop

The old doghouse beside the coop

How can anything be so adorable and sweet?

How can anything be so adorable and sweet?

Janet looking lovely among the hens

Janet looking lovely among the hens

And then it was time for our last workshop. Some of us revised projects from the last workshop while others brought new material. I have to say, workshop, even the best ones, can be exhausting, but I felt rejuvenated after ours– there were so many fresh perspectives that prospect of revision felt promising, exciting, and full of possibilities.

Janet and Stephanie prepare for workshop

Janet and Stephanie prepare for workshop with tea and work to share

Yoga coaxed us out of our seats and revived our writer-backs.

yoga

Dancer

yoga2

Warrior II

we earned this

We earned this

At the end of the day, how could I help but be happy with the work we had done? Already we had completed three workshops, snuggled many chicks, painted a castle, visited Paris and Chantilly, and learned so much from craft talks and classes… and the retreat wasn’t even quite finished. Every morning and every night I would look out my window and feel thankful for the present moment and our lucky constellation of writers in this ephemeral place.

– Jessica Reidy, CWW Fiction Instructor

Looking out my window

Looking out my window

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One thought on “August 18 – Watercolors and Writing Workshops at the Château de Verderonne

  1. Pingback: Cambridge Writers’ Workshop 2014 Yoga & Writing Retreat at the Château de Verderonne | Rita Banerjee

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